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Unpacking the Oscars: Diversity, Commercialization, and the Quest for Relevance in Hollywood


An anime style Lady getting an Oscar

The Oscars occurred last Sunday with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer winning seven Oscars putting it into an exclusive club of films that have managed this feat. This year was a good year for films with many high-profile film releases such as Barbie and Poor Things. But are the Oscars still relevant in our current age? With streaming and television on the rise, fewer and fewer people are following these once “unmissable” event and is it possible for them to bounce back?


Last year the moment that kept the Oscars relevant was the slap heard across the world as Will Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face after making a joke towards the actor's wife. But other than that, most people won’t be able to tell you much about what else happened at the event.


Some would argue that this could be due to a lack of diversity. Concerns started after many people pointed out that the Oscar nominations would often overlook films directed by women, people of colour, and from countries that weren’t America. The recent rule changes introduced by the Oscars in response to diversity concerns have ignited discussions about their true efficacy. While these alterations aim to foster inclusivity and representation in filmmaking, sceptics suggest they might serve as mere surface-level remedies, failing to address the deeper-rooted systemic inequalities within Hollywood. According to insiders from prominent film companies who spoke anonymously with the New York Times, the diversity requirements have had limited impact on their filmmaking processes, with some asserting that the standards are easily met and may not lead to substantial shifts in hiring practices or narrative choices.


However, this year's Oscar nominations do reflect some strides towards diversification. Notably, among the nominees for acting awards, seven individuals hail from historically marginalised communities. The recognition of talents such as Lily Gladstone, the first Native American nominee for Best Actress for her role in "Killers of the Flower Moon," and Colman Domingo's portrayal of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, nominated for Best Actor, signifies a move towards acknowledging and celebrating diverse voices in the industry. Moreover, films like "Barbie" and "American Fiction," nominated for Best Picture, feature casts and narratives that offer a broader spectrum of experiences, such as "Past Lives," which explores the reunion between a Korean American woman and her childhood friend, showcasing storytelling that reflects the rich tapestry of human existence. Despite these positive developments, the ongoing debate underscores the need for more comprehensive and sustained efforts to enact meaningful change in Hollywood's landscape.


Another reason for the Oscar's decline is the growing commercialisation and corporate influence on the show. Behind the scenes, studios and distributors spare no expense in mounting elaborate campaigns to sway Academy voters, pouring resources into everything from lavish events to glossy promotional materials. The allure of an Oscar win is not merely symbolic; it carries tangible financial benefits, driving box office revenue and shaping long-term industry dynamics. Yet, this pursuit of Oscar glory often comes at a cost, as artistic integrity takes a backseat to marketing strategies and financial incentives. Major studios, wielding considerable influence within the Academy, further tilt the scales in favour of big-budget productions, while smaller, independent films struggle to compete. The Oscars, once a celebration of cinematic excellence, have become entangled in a web of sponsorship deals, brand integration, and profit-driven agendas. In this landscape, the line between artistic merit and commercial interests blurs, raising questions about the authenticity and integrity of the awards. As the film industry grapples with these challenges, the Oscars risk losing relevance, becoming little more than a glittering spectacle of corporate branding and industry politics.


Photo by Mirko Fabian on Unsplash
Photo by Mirko Fabian on Unsplash

While the Oscars remain a highly anticipated event in the film industry, their relevance has faced challenges in recent years. Issues such as lack of diversity in nominations, growing commercialization, and corporate influence have led to debates about the awards' significance and impact on the industry. Despite efforts to address these concerns through rule changes and recognition of diverse talents, scepticism remains about the Oscars' ability to truly reflect the rich tapestry of human experiences and maintain their integrity as a celebration of cinematic excellence. Moving forward, continued efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and artistic integrity will be essential for the Oscars to remain relevant in an ever-evolving film landscape.


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